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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Columnist: K. Badu

There you go! The Members of Parliament are digging their own graves

In the wake of the damning research findings released by political scientists from the University of Ghana on the diverse perspectives of Ghanaian voters on the roles and functions of the Members of Parliament, the policymakers have somehow found it necessary to contemplate on putting up an ultra-modern 450-seater edifice to the utter disgust of the vast majority of their constituents.

Of course, some of us have our reservations on the validity of the findings of the research study on MPs roles and functions.

Let us also swiftly dispel any perceived notion of our antipathy towards the parliamentary establishment; we are indeed conversant with the important role being played by the August House.

It is, indeed, an observable fact that Members of Parliament everywhere on this planet of ours play crucial roles in their respective countries, and, Members of Parliament of Ghana cannot be precluded from that honourable role.

Nevertheless, the overarching question every well-meaning Ghanaian should be asking is: do we really need a 450-seater chamber?

A few months ago, I shuddered in utter disbelief when I read elsewhere that the Electoral Commission of Ghana was planning to create additional 25 constituencies to bring the total to 300.

But lo and behold, my disappointment became ephemeral, like a life span of a fly, when the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Jean Mensah, quickly came out and denied any knowledge of the alleged creation of extra 25 constituencies during a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing.

The critics are not far from right: the mere creation of extra constituencies won’t automatically bring prosperity unless the government of the day resorts to rational distribution of national resources.

But that said, it does not necessarily mean that the creation of extra constituencies is immaterial.

We should, however, bear in mind that creation of extra constituencies carries additional administrative and parliamentary cost, which invariably increases the national expenditure.

The all-important question every discerning Ghanaian should be asking then is: do we even need 300 Members of Parliament, let alone 450?

In the United Kingdom for instance, there are a total of 326 districts, made up of 36 metropolitan boroughs, 32 London boroughs, 201 non-metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities, as well as the City of London and the Isles of Scilly which are also districts.

Currently, the United Kingdom has 650 constituencies (533 in England, 40 in Wales, 59 in Scotland and 18 in Northern Ireland), each represented by one Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, corresponding to approximately 1 for every 92,000 people, or 1 for every 68,000 parliamentary electors, with a population of 66,957,907 as of Monday, July 1, 2019, based on the latest United Nations estimates (see: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/uk-population/).

If we do a simple arithmetic by multiplying the number of eligible Members of Parliament (650) by the current average electorates in each constituency (68000), we will arrive at 44.2 million eligible voters.

And, 92,000 people in each constituency by 650 will give us around 60 million people.

Now let us calculate that of Ghana: 275 eligible Members of Parliament into 2016 estimated voters according to the 2016 register (15 million), will give us around 54,545 averagely in each constituency.

If we multiply Ghana’s current population estimate of 30 million by the eligible 275 Members of Parliament, we will arrive at around 110,000 people averagely in each constituency.

On the preponderance of probability, therefore, Ghana does not need more than 275 Members of Parliament.

So, the proposal for the construction of a 450-seater ultra-modern chamber is a nonstarter, so to speak.

Of course, Ghana, like any other democratic country, cannot do away with the crucial role being played by the policy makers in our democratic dispensation.

Indeed, Ghana cannot afford to do away with serious and forward-thinking politicians, in spite of the persistent disappointments.

We, (the electorates), are resigned to give our votes to the politicians, who are in turn, obliged to implement expedient policies that would move the nation forward.

Thus, in contrast to our expectations, it will be devilishly impossible to do away with politicians, in spite of the disappointments.

In the grand scheme of things, the focus must be on the more pressing issues which the Akufo-Addo’s government is seriously working towards addressing to the benefit of all and sundry.